************ Sermon on Romans 10:17 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 17, 2006
"Faith Comes from Hearing"
If I was the Devil, do you know what I would do? If I was the Devil I would try to get people to stop reading the Bible. If I was the Devil I would try to stop all Bible studies. If I was the Devil I would try to stop preachers from preaching the Bible. If I was the Devil I would make people doubt the truth and relevance and wisdom of the Bible. If I was the Devil I would convince people that the Bible is a burdensome extra, not something necessary for their salvation. If I was the Devil and someone did persist in studying the Bible I would convince them it was not necessary to be doers of the Word; I would convince them it was enough to be hearers of the Word. If I was the Devil I would try to get people to focus on feelings rather than on what the Bible actually says. If I was the Devil this is what I would do.
I came across the following facts this past week. DID YOU KNOW:
Only 40% of Americans know that Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount.
Fewer than half of American adults can name all four Gospels.
Only 54% of Protestant adults read the Bible each week.
65% of adults who identified themselves as Bible readers have never read the entire New Testament.
In a survey of more than 500 pastors, 47% cited "lack of time" as the main reason more Christians don't read the Bible.
There are now 75 million unchurched Americans and more than half of these unchurched people consider themselves Christian.
By the year 2010, an estimated 10% to 20% of Americans will obtain religious information exclusively or primarily through the Internet.
Do you know what these statistics tell me? They tell me that if I was the Devil I should be enormously satisfied with myself and I should pat myself on the back for the great job I am doing.
I You've Got the Time
I already took note that many Christians do not read the Bible because they don't have the time. Actually, it is because they don't make the time. We take time every day to do all sorts of things. We take time to shower and shave and put on makeup and fix our hair and brush our teeth. We take time to eat. We take time to get ready for bed. We take time to read the newspaper and watch the news. We take time to watch a football game or our favorite show. We take time to exercise. We take time to go out for coffee or supper with friends. We take time for everything but God's Word.
This morning – as I already told the girls and boys – we are giving every member of the church an Audio New Testament. An organization called "Faith Comes By Hearing" and "The American Bible Society" have joined together to record and distribute Audio New Testaments to 97% of the world's population by the year 2016. You will find the CDs in your mail slot – mostly one for every member of the family (HOLD THEM UP AND EXPLAIN DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE CHILDREN AND ADULT CD).
Do you drive to school or to work for 25 minutes each day? Listen to the CD. Do you spend half an hour each day with your makeup and hair? Listen to the CD. Do you read bedtime stories to your children? Use the CD and the songs. Do you drive around the dairy or to another dairy? Listen to the CD. Is everyone kind of grumpy and quiet at breakfast? Listen to the CD. Do you workout at the gym? Listen to the CD. Do you run up Rocky Hill or walk around Sierra Village? Listen to the CD. Or, use your imagination on when you can listen to God's Word. In 40 days you will go through the entire New Testament. In fact, I want to challenge every home and every family to go through the entire New Testament in the next 40 days.
I think you get the point: every one of us can spend time with God's Word each and every single day.
A couple of years ago an official in Japan got himself in a lot of hot water by stating that American workers have a poor work ethic – in short, they are lazy. Americans and the American press were very upset. We can go further and say that many Christians are lazy. We fail to hear and study God's Word not because it is difficult or dull or boring, but because we are lazy. We simply are too lazy to open our Bibles.
II Faith Comes From Hearing
A Why, on this kickoff Sunday at the start of the church year, do we stress Bible reading? What makes it so important?
Let me answer this question by reminding you of the story of Josiah, the boy king of Judah. Josiah was eight years old when he became king. Listen to what Scripture says about Josiah:
(2 Chr 34:2) He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left. (3) In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, he began to seek the God of his father David. In his twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of high places, Asherah poles, carved idols and cast images. (4) Under his direction the altars of the Baals were torn down; he cut to pieces the incense altars that were above them, and smashed the Asherah poles, the idols and the images. These he broke to pieces and scattered over the graves of those who had sacrificed to them ... (31) The king stood by his pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the LORD--to follow the LORD and keep his commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, and to obey the words of the covenant written in this book ... (33) Josiah removed all the detestable idols from all the territory belonging to the Israelites, and he had all who were present in Israel serve the LORD their God. As long as he lived, they did not fail to follow the LORD, the God of their fathers.What an impressive list of reforms! How sad that these reforms were needed among God's people. How exciting that they were done.
What caused a young boy to make these changes? Josiah found a book. You heard me right: Josiah found a book. He found the Book of the Law (2 Chron 34:14). How sad that the law of God was lost and forgotten among the people of God. How exciting that it was found and followed. Josiah found that he loved the Word of God. And, Scripture makes a big point of telling us that he read the Law to all the people, from the least of them to the greatest. He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant (2 Chron 34:29-30).
God intended for His people to "hear" the Word regularly. Did you realize that "hearing" is referred to 1230 times in the Bible? God's will is that His people hear His Word – at home, at school, at church, on the road, everywhere.
Josiah heard the Word and his life was changed and the lives of his people were changed.
B In his letter to the church at Rome, Paul tells us the same thing. Paul tells us that "faith comes from hearing the message." Paul is talking about true faith. He is talking about sincere faith. He is talking about faith that is lived out. He is talking about faith that leads to eternal salvation. He is talking about faith that makes a difference.
This "faith comes from hearing the message." In fact, there is no other way to get faith. We don't get faith by osmosis. We don't get faith by keeping a Bible close by. We don't get faith by surrounding ourselves with devotional books. We don't get faith by having Christian friends. We need to hear the Word of Christ. That's what the Holy Bible says to us.
Consider the conversions we read about in the New Testament. Simon the Sorcerer and the people of Samaria, they believed and were baptized after they heard the Gospel preached to them by Philip (Acts 8:4-13). The Ethiopian eunuch believed and was baptized after Philip explained the Scriptures to him (Acts 8:26-40). Saul believed in Jesus only after he heard the voice and saw the light from heaven (Acts 9). Cornelius believed in Jesus after he heard the gospel proclaimed to him by Peter (Acts 10). Lydia listened to Paul's message and she believed and was baptized (Acts 16:11ff). The Philippian jailer believed only after Paul and Silas preached to him in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 16:16f). "Faith comes from hearing the message."
A couple of months ago we had an article in the Trinity Post from South East Asia. The article was about the dedication of the Bible in their own language. What struck me is that we have so much and are not satisfied; they, on the other hand, finally received the Bible in their own language and are filled with great joy. Let me read some of the article to you:
One arrived in the village one day ahead of us with the Books altogether 2900 in a small truck. 450 books still remained somewhere in a village inside the country. Every body were excited and did not believe their eyes that the Book has arrived. We arrived at midnight about 1:00AM, and the next day the church members of Immanuel Christian Reformed Church came together and said that they would like to welcome the Book by having a small celebration of welcome. They invited people and killed a very big ox and held a feast of thanksgiving to the Lord. Every body was happy and had to say words of thanks and happiness. But only the older people were given chance to speak and share their testimonies.What an article! Why were they so excited about getting the Bible? Because they know that "faith comes from hearing the message." Now, for the first time, they can hear the word of Christ in their own language! Isn't that awesome?! And, praise God, we were used by the Lord to help make this possible.
The Books are contained in the boxes and it was not allowed to open until it was dedicated to the Lord. David brought a copy to the capitol and I took this copy gave it to the Bible Translation Committee. They wrapped it with a very beautiful colorful paper and with ribbon and put it in a small box especially prepared for this purpose. The box had two sticks to carry by two persons. On Wednesday morning of May 3 pastors and Bible Translation Committee members and people from the village gathered together at the clinic to walk to a village about sixteen miles away. This is the place where we had dedication ceremony. Two of the pastors who were assigned to carry the box that contained the Word of the Lord took the box and carried it and the ministers and Translation Committee Members and other people followed after the box shouting 'The Word of the Lord has arrived in our Land, Hallelujah,' the followers shouted 'Amen'.
The people on the way through to the village when they saw us they were happy and shouting, but older people were crying with flowing tears as the result of joy.
We spent a night on the way before we got to the village at the request of the villagers in a village. They made a request that the Word of the Lord should stay for a night at their village. The whole villagers came together near the box and sang a song, praised the Lord, and had a small feast of thanksgiving. The next day more people followed after the box of the Word of the Lord, walking to the assigned place. There were three villages before we got to the dedication place, all the villagers came out of the village carrying in their hands bananas, waters, some rice and others for the people shouting through the way 'Hallelujah, Praise the Lord!'
When we came to the village where we had dedication ceremony the people came about a mile on the way to meet us. The box carried by two pastors went first and the people followed after them with shouting 'The Word of the Lord has Arrived in our Land, Halleluijah Amen!'. People from other villages had already arrived in the village and there were about 2000 people shouting together. The box was put in the church for a while.
Sunday, May 7 was the day of dedication ceremony. People divided into four groups Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and they came to the dedication site group by group with shouting. After all the people gathered inside the temporary tent made with bamboo and mat roof for dedication service, all the pastors from different denominations and translation committee members, and reviewers went to the church where the box was put and two pastors took the box and one of the elders carried the cross led the group, and followed by a pastor who carried the banner, and then the Box carried by two pastors and then followed by the pastors and evangelists. They entered into the tent and the people stood up and shouting 'Praise the Lord, Halleluijah. Amen.'
C "Faith comes from hearing the message." In our Scripture reading Paul makes clear that the credit for this goes to God. In a series of questions Paul leads us to this conclusion.
First, Paul asks how anyone can call on the Lord who does not believe in Him (Rom 10:14). I don't ask my mechanic to save me, because I know he is not able to. But before I can call on Jesus to save me, I have to know about Him and believe in Him.
Second, Paul asks how anyone can believe in Jesus who has never heard of Him (Rom 10:14). Obviously, the answer is no one can believe in Jesus unless they have heard of Him. "Faith comes from hearing the message." Sadly, this message escapes those who think even the most pagan culture needs to be allowed to worship God their own way. But Christians know better because they know the truth of God's Word through Paul: in order to be saved one must confess with the mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in the heart that God raised Him from the dead (Rom 10:9).
Third, Paul asks how anyone can hear without someone preaching to them (Rom 10:14). "Faith comes from hearing the message." Preaching the gospel is the foremost job of the Christian church. Thank God for preachers who never tire of proclaiming the Gospel for there is no other way people can be saved.
Fourth, Paul asks how can they preach unless they are sent (Rom 10:15). Those who proclaim the word of Christ need to be sent by God and from His church.
Do you see the thread that Paul lays out before us? Sent, preach, hear, believe, call. "Faith comes from hearing the message." And, it is God Who makes it possible by sending out preachers and others with the good news.
D "Faith comes from hearing the message." What people need to hear is the message of the Gospel, the message of Christ. They need to hear that Jesus is the eternal Son of God. They need to hear about the conception by the Spirit and the virgin birth. They need to hear about the suffering under Pontius Pilate. They need to hear about the cross and the grave. They need to hear that Jesus ascended into heaven and is seated at God's right hand. They need to hear that someday He will return to judge the living and the dead.
People are thirsty and need to drink from the water of life. They live in darkness and need the light of God's Word. They are hungry and only the bread of life will satisfy them. It is only when they hear the Word that they find what they need.
E "Faith comes from hearing the message." If this is true then it is imperative we take the time to listen to the Word. If this is true then it follows we come to church where we hear the Word proclaimed. If this is true then we need a Family Altar in every one of our homes – a place and a time to hear the Word. If this is true then we join with other Christians in studying God's Word. If this is true then we want our children in Church School, Catechism, GEMS, Cadets, Youth Group.
"Faith comes from hearing the message." Do you want this faith? Do you want to grow in the faith? Is there a loved one you are praying for every single day that they may believe? None of this is going to happen until or unless you hear the message. Because "faith comes from hearing."
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